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The Brooklyn Dodgers Series: The Kid from Tomkinsville, Keystone Kids, and World Series

The Brooklyn Dodgers Series: The Kid from Tomkinsville, Keystone Kids, and World Series

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The Brooklyn Dodgers Series: The Kid from Tomkinsville, Keystone Kids, and World Series

Longueur:
556 pages
21 heures
Sortie:
Nov 18, 2013
ISBN:
9781480466098
Format:
Livre

Description

A special edition of three of John R. Tunis’s novels about the Brooklyn Dodgers, engrossing stories of integrity and strength against all odds
In The Kid from Tomkinsville, Roy Tucker—a small-town kid from Tomkinsville, Connecticut—has quit his job at the drugstore and packed up for Dodgers training camp in Clearwater, Florida, hoping to make the team as a rookie pitcher. He expects the field to be competitive and realizes he might not pass muster, but after just one practice, he discovers just how difficult a goal he has set. But the Dodgers are an aging team, and owner Jack MacManus is getting tired of the smart remarks from sports reporters and the manager of the rival Giants, Bill Murphy. With a little coaching and encouragement from Dave Leonard, the oldest catcher in the big leagues, this kid from Tomkinsville might be just what the team needs.
In Keystone Kids, the Brooklyn Dodgers have been flagging, dropping through the ranks as the Pittsburgh Pirates take the league. When a scout brings Spike and Bob Russell up from the minor leagues, the “Keystone Kids” quickly prove their worth. With Spike at shortstop and Bob at second base, the future starts to look a little brighter—but Spike sees the slumping team begin to fall apart again the following year. Exasperated and tired of being in last place, owner Jack MacManus unexpectedly promotes Spike to manager, hoping to shake his team of its losing habit.
And in World Series, the Brooklyn Dodgers have finally made it to the World Series, after years of losing seasons and disappointments. Roy Tucker, the kid from Tomkinsville, is excited about the series, and also about the prospect of a little extra money to send home to his grandmother in Connecticut. The Cleveland Indians are now all that stands between the Dodgers and their first-ever championship. But this seven-game series could be the longest they’ve ever played, plagued by injuries, setbacks, and early losses. Will Tucker and his Brooklyn teammates finally have their moment of glory?
Sortie:
Nov 18, 2013
ISBN:
9781480466098
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

John R. Tunis (1889–1975) was a novelist and sportswriter best remembered for his series of novels about the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and ’50s. Born in Boston, Tunis graduated from Harvard University and then served in the Army during World War I. He began writing sports columns in 1925 and was soon contributing to dozens of publications, including the New Yorker, Reader’s Digest, Esquire, and the Saturday Evening Post. A tennis player himself, Tunis broadcast the first Wimbledon match to air in the United States in 1934.

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The Brooklyn Dodgers Series - John R. Tunis

The Brooklyn Dodgers Series

The Kid from Tomkinsville, The Keystone Kids, World Series

John R. Tunis

Contents

The Kid from Tomkinsville

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The Keystone Kids

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World Series

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The Kid from Tomkinsville

Contents

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1

THE TRAIN STOOD STILL. The train seemed attached to the station forever. The train refused to leave. So did his friends. They balanced first on one foot and then on the other along the platform below his window, the girls giggling, the boys grinning and shouting things it was impossible to hear. Embarrassed and unhappy, he slouched down in the seat. They were attracting attention and people ahead in the car turned to stare, looking at his one small suitcase with the bat strapped to it in the rack above. Their staring increased his loneliness and his fear of going away into the unknown, the fear of leaving home for the first time which suddenly took possession of him. If only the train would leave. But the train didn’t move.

The door just behind him banged and a brakeman came through. The last words of the conductor standing beside the steps with his watch in hand filtered through the door before it shut.

Yeah... that kid from Tomkinsville... The brakeman turned and looked at him curiously as he passed down the aisle. Other passengers caught the words and turned to look also. Still the train refused to move. Then there was a jolt. It did move. Slowly, gently, but it moved. Instantly the group below became animated and started to wave. He straightened up and waved back. They followed the car along the platform; boys he had played and fought with, girls with whom he’d gone to school: Joe and Harry Cousins, the twins who played end on the football team; Harry Peters, whose father had also been killed in the war; Jess Moore and Tommy Watson, who had the night shift at MacKenzie’s drugstore, and Jim Harrison, who was taking his place on the day shift, and... and lots of others, now disappearing. Only a minute before he had wished them all a million miles away. Now they were his last link with Grandma and Tomkinsville. He couldn’t bear to see them vanish so he turned and waved. Then the train gathered speed and they were out of sight. He was alone....

The door opened brusquely and the conductor came in accompanied by a draft of cold air. Tickets, please, Hartford tickets.... Reaching into his pocket, he noticed the conductor was smiling. That ticket... where was it? His pocketbook, his inside pocket... but he had it... only half an hour before. A panic seized him. Lost? Ah, there it was. In a side pocket where he had stuffed it as he shook hands with them on the platform. He handed it to the conductor and as he did so a copy of Detective Stories, his reading material for twenty-four hours, fell to the floor. The conductor casually unfolded the long green strip, punched it several times, and handed it back. Clearwater, hey... going down to the training camps? Then he went up the aisle. Tickets... Hartford tickets, please. Folks up ahead in the car turned and stared.

The knot of men round the train gate of the Pennsylvania Station suddenly came alive as the uniformed attendant dropped the chain and called out:

Palmetto Limited; Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and the West Coast. Palmetto Limited. Beside him a tall man in a fawn-colored coat with a piece of paper in his hand was checking the men as they went through the gate. He called out each name. Cars 456 and 7, boys. Townsend... Loretti... Spencer... Brooks... yeah, you’re in 456... Henricks... Stevens... Smith... Case, where’s Case?... there you are... Scudder... I got you, Scudder... Hennessey... Bareto... Morgan... Rice... 456 and 7...

While the crowd surged about the narrow entrance, a well-dressed man at one side stood watching and waiting for the gate to clear. Two porters behind him were surrounded by a mountain of luggage; expensive leather handbags, large suitcases, and an enormous bag crammed with several dozen clubs and bulging with golf paraphernalia. At his elbow was a short, chunky, red-faced fellow with his gray hat over his eyes and his hands in the pockets of his trousers. The older man was talking and shaking his head with decision.

No... of course I won’t say that.... How can I? Haven’t seen the other clubs yet. There was some annoyance in his voice. Nope, I certainly won’t say that, Casey. Don’t know yet. He flipped away his cigarette with a derisive gesture. Then he turned to the porters, nodded, and followed by that mountain of baggage moved toward the train gate. The smaller man kept close beside him, and they passed through and descended the stairs to the waiting train. What’s that?... Well, I dunno.... Maybe... Maybe not... How can I tell?... Sure, you can say that. You can say we won’t finish last like we did last summer. What’s that? New men? Well... coupla swell outfielders from the Pacific Coast League, and a fair shortstop who hit .320 for Elmira last season, and a boy named Stevens from Kansas City who won eighteen games for ’em, and... oh yes, there’s a kid from Connecticut, they tell me he’ll be a ballplayer in a few years. Car 517. The Pullman conductor at the foot of the stairs waved him up ahead. My car’s in front. C’mon up and have dinner. All I know is I have a hundred and fifty grand invested in that ballclub. I’ll say this. We got problems. Plenty of problems. But if we can come up with two good pitchers we’ll make any of ’em hustle. He turned abruptly and went forward. The two porters followed him into the blackness.

The little man went into his car. As the train started he unhitched a portable typewriter, set it up, inserted a piece of paper and began to write. Then he hesitated. He took the paper out and threw it away in a crumpled ball. He put in another sheet and after a few words repeated the process. All this time the train was rocking across the meadows of Newark. Once again he tried it, once more he was dissatisfied, took the paper out and tossed it aside. As they slowed up at the station in Newark he lit a cigarette, leaned back and smoked. Finally he put in a fresh sheet and wrote at the top of the page:

"BY JIM CASEY

Unless it’s an old man selling apples at the corner of Broad and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia, on a cold winter day, I can’t think of anything more pathetic than setting out with the Brooklyn Dodgers for another season. His cigarette was out so he lit another and continued. The words came faster. Who’ve they got this year? For pitchers, Jake Kennedy, Frenchie De Voe, Harry Norman, Rats Doyle, Sam Henderson, ‘Fat Stuff’ Foster, and Razzle Nugent. Except for Nugent, Foster is the best of a bad lot. He had the best record last summer when he lost twenty games and won ten. That means the Dodgers are exactly half a game behind every time he takes the mound. They have a rookie from Elmira trying for shortstop, two new outfielders from the Pacific Coast, and a kid from somewhere up in Connecticut without any big-league experience who’s supposed to pitch them into the Series. Maybe.

Now words rippled from his machine. His face grew redder, for he was thinking of the effect of those sentences on the man in the car up front. After all, what of it? True, every word. He read what he had written and as the spires of Princeton whizzed past in the distance he inserted a final sheet and ended his story.

If you think all this is hard on our Dodgers, just do one thing. Clip this and call me on it next September. Then if the Dodgers aren’t in last place, sue me. No, don’t sue me. Choke me, because I have no business being a sportswriter.

Drive?

He shook his head as he shoved the third suitcase into the back of the car. Nope. You drive. She got in behind the wheel and he opened the other door and sat down. Anything to postpone the time when responsibility for the family would be on his shoulders.

She took the wheel, backed out of the driveway and drove down the familiar street. The children waved to him from the front window and he waved back. A flurry of snow beat against the glass, and he leaned over to turn on the car heater. At the corner a commuter coming home from work with his head lowered against the storm seemed weary and beaten. The man in the car watched the snow fall. The same sort of storm as the day he had started for the training camps the first time, a boy fresh from college going into the big leagues. He remembered the bitter cold, the driving snow, and then the warmth and sunshine of Florida the next day. Those were the days when roughnecks ruled the training camps, when you could turn in at night and be sure of finding a dead shark in your bed. Things were different now, and easier. If only he was breaking in nowadays.

They turned into Wayne Avenue, past the A & P, and then by Johnson’s drugstore where the boys always listened to the out-of-town games on the air—or said they did. The car swung into Germantown as she stopped for a red light. I’m sure things won’t be as bad as you imagine, Dave. Look how well you feel. You haven’t had a cold this winter. You’re young still....

I know I’m young. You know I’m young. I feel young all right. But does he know it? You can’t fool the record book. After all, there it is. Started in 1923 with the Chicago White Sox. Laugh that one off. The oldest catcher in the big leagues. That’s what the papers always say. Notice, not the smartest catcher, or the best catcher, but the oldest catcher. The veteran...

"Dave Leonard! Stop! You are the smartest catcher. Casey said so. With all your experience you have something to offer them, especially a young club that must be built up from the bottom." He shook his head. She was encouraging him or at least she was trying to encourage him, to help, but he knew she was merely repeating words. They helped yet they hurt.

Casey! What’s he know about baseball? Well, anyway... there’s one sure thing. They don’t pay twelve-five for nothing these days. I know I’m not as young as Stansworth. Stansworth can catch a hundred and fifty games... I... can catch a hundred, though... easily. There was a tone of eagerness in his voice. Stansworth’s young. But they don’t pay him twelve-five. Yet, anyhow.

Ah, if he was only twenty-seven and breaking into the League again with all the things he knew. With the things you get only through experience, through watching carefully and studying each man and each style of play, through making mistakes, errors that cost games, that cost a lead, that cost a team the pennant, that cost twenty-five players their share in the World Series gate. That’s when you learn. He’d learned.

But he was thirty-eight. Dave Leonard the veteran, you know, fella used to catch for the White Sox. Oldest catcher in the game now. Her hand came over his as she read his thoughts. Then she reached for the gear because a red light showed ahead.

Twelve-five. They don’t pay salaries like that to rookie catchers at any rate. Nor to veterans either, for long. The house back on Elliott Avenue, and those kids at the window, the three people who depended on that twelve-five, what would they do when his contract wasn’t renewed? Thirty-eight. In baseball it was speed that counted, and at thirty-eight your speed was gone. At thirty-eight the average business man is just getting into the money. In baseball a chap is just leaving it. Twelve-five, yep, sounds like lots of money. But he needed three years before some of his insurance came due and the load lightened.

The station loomed ahead, and she turned and swung inside. The car bumped as they went up the drive.

Needs new springs, she said, half apologetically.

Needs a new car, he answered bitterly. She stopped and a porter opened the door.

Yeah... those three small bags. Palmetto Limited. She got out and went into the station with him. Someone going past reached for his arm. Hi, there, Dave old boy, going South? Good luck to you. He smiled, shook hands, and hurried on.

Who was that, Dave?

Dunno. Some man, some fan I guess. Maybe the guy who threw the bottle at me when I struck out in that game last fall. Whoever the man was he had a job, a real job, not just a job for the summer. Not a veteran ballplayer, finished and ready to be shoved off at thirty-eight. Thirty-eight, and then who knows; perhaps his last year in the League. After that what? Kansas City, or Beaumont, or Nashville, tank towns with half salary for a few years, and then back for a job on the coaching lines like old Gallagher who’d once caught Alexander and now hardly made enough to keep through the winter.

Now... now... what’s that you’re saying? Yes, he must be getting old, muttering to himself. They went along the platform hand in hand, he holding her and reluctant to let her go. "Remember, dear, this isn’t your last season. I know it isn’t. With your experience you won’t be just a bullpen catcher. How do you know, maybe you’ll get a job as manager. Just you wait and see.

He shook his head. Managers’ jobs didn’t come just for the asking. Then a loudspeaker bellowed a warning. Stand back, please. Palmetto Limited; Jacksonville, Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota and the West Coast. Still pressing her close he walked ahead as the train with a roar from behind rumbled past, slithered down to a hissing stop. He glanced up at the lighted cars and saw a face he knew. Another, and another. Red Allen, the first baseman. Casey, the sportswriter, his hands in his pockets as usual, standing on the platform with a cigarette in his mouth. And someone... someone who waved at him he didn’t recognize. Those familiar faces cheered him.

Yo’ car up ahead, boss. 456. Up ahead. They went up hand in hand. Those faces helped, friends who liked him and would be in there fighting in the dead heat of St. Louis and Cincinnati in July, fellows who knew what it was to stick through a losing game with a losing team. Easy enough to have pepper when you were in second place. But when you were last; that’s when it was hard to fight.

Car 456. Here it was. Tampa, Clearwater, St. Pete, Sarasota next car.

Good-by, Helen.

Good-by. Don’t worry. Things will work out; you’ll see. Take care of yourself at first. Don’t overdo.

He climbed up, turned and waved to her, and went inside. The bright lights of the interior dazzled him momentarily, but the sound of familiar voices calling his name greeted his ears.

There he is now....

Hey, Dave, old boy....

How’s the old kid, Dave, how arya?...

What’s the sign say?

Sez Tampa, 22 miles.

Suits me. This driving gets tiresome. Never driven down before and I won’t drive down again. The big Cadillac was leaping down a straight road bordered on one side by the railroad track and on the other by pine groves. It was a brand-new car glistening in the afternoon sunshine, driven with sureness and touch by the blond man at the wheel. He must have driven expensive cars all his life, for there was an air of authority in his grasp of the wheel which seemed to go with cars like Cadillacs.

Saw Murphy last night in the lobby.

Bill Murphy? Giants’ manager?

Yeah.

What’s he doing up there?

On a scouting trip.

What’s he say?

Says the Yanks are hot this year. Says he seen you with your arms round MacManus’s neck in a picture. Guesses that’ll be the last time it’ll be there unless you grab off a pennant.

Wait till Mac hears that one. It’ll burn him up. Funny about those two guys, they sure get in each other’s hair, don’t they? Mac’s been okay with me. He’s tough, so is a good ballplayer.

Yeah... well, I ain’t noticed you were very easy pickings. You always looked out for yourself pretty good.

Who else? No one ever helped me into the big leagues. I fought my own way up, ever since I was a kid I fought, ever since I was a kid with no money to buy shoes in Montpelier, Vermont.

Yeah. You’re a scrapper all right. That Gas House Gang, they’re all scrappers. They sure weren’t a bunch of sissies. Great gang, those boys.

Scrapping wins pennants. I’d like this team to be scrappers. To be a hustling ballclub, no lead in their tails. We got too many nice boys. Too much dead wood. Old Caswell and Jennison and Dave Leonard. Been in the League almost twenty years, he has. I want youngsters. Like this-here-now Kid from Tomkinsville. They tell me he’ll be a ballplayer one of these days... maybe.... He added the last word as an afterthought. When you’ve been up and around a few years in baseball and seen a few of them come and go, when you’ve watched kids with big reputations in the minors go to pieces for no reason at all with a big-league club, well, you get sort of cautious.

In the coach behind the baggage car in front of the train, the Kid from Tomkinsville stretched his legs for the twentieth time in an hour. The dog-eared and dirty copy of Detective Stories fell to the ground and stayed there because he had read it through, some stories twice over. He ached everywhere. Sleeping in a day coach does things to you. No matter how you sit or what position you take, you wake up sore and weary. Your neck is stiff. The jolting and rocking of the train tightens your leg muscles. It makes your hips and thighs ache. The thick, unchanged air contracts your throat and gives you a heavy feeling in your head, the continual dust irritates your nasal passages. Outside the warm afternoon sunshine beat through dingy window panes into the stuffy interior of the car. They had left Washington the previous night in a blizzard, but the sun was shining at Jacksonville in the morning. It was a pleasant, warm, and welcome sun. Now it was hot and much less welcome. A long flat road wound beside the track with groves of pine trees beyond. Slowly a big blue car came into sight, and he envied the two bareheaded men sitting in the front. It was an expensive cabriolet with the top back, and suitcases and golf bags piled high in the rear. A couple of millionaires, probably, going south for a winter vacation. Some folks had all the luck. Now the car swerved close to the train, then it veered away as the road shifted, but always it moved gently ahead until finally it pulled out of sight.

Some day he’d have a car like that. A big shiny, blue-painted car, and take Grandma for a ride in it with the top back. Some day, when he was a successful ballplayer.

2

FUNNY HOW A CHAP can feel lonely even in a crowd.

The crowd made him feel more lonely than ever. Because those men in the roof garden at breakfast didn’t seem like ballplayers, not at least the kind he knew, but older men. They were business men, well-dressed fellows who were evidently prospering in a profession that they liked. They wore curious costumes—coats that didn’t match their gray trousers and pointed tan shoes with white tips. Everyone seemed to know everyone else; they called each other by their first names, and jokes and laughter floated across the tables as they looked at the menu with practiced glances, ordered what they wanted, and addressed the waitress as Sweetmeat. It made him feel terribly alone. He sat at a table unoccupied save for his roommate, a boy with big open brown eyes who like himself sat in silence, knowing no one.

Down in the lobby after breakfast it was worse. While he sat silently in a big chair, men kept coming downstairs, greeting old friends, calling in delight as they found a pal, laughing and talking, perfectly at ease, with no worries or fears. He was not only unhappy, he was afraid, and his loneliness accentuated his fright. There was the fear of not making good, of having to return home without a job as everyone in Tomkinsville had predicted. Worst of all, there was the worry as to whether he’d ever be able to return. Suppose he couldn’t make the grade? Lots of rookies didn’t. Suppose... Then a man stalked across the lobby in front of his chair.

The man was tall, broad-shouldered, quietly but expensively dressed in blue striped trousers, a blue sports coat, and the whitest of white sports shoes. The ballplayers all had tan shoes with white tips, but his shoes were white all over. There was something impressive in the way he walked, or maybe in the way he swayed his shoulders, and the gesture with which he twirled his Panama in his hand as he moved over to the newsstand. He picked up a newspaper with decisive movement. One... two... three... four... now what does anyone want five newspapers for? There was even decision in the way he folded them and snapped them under his arm, turned and walked down the stairs to the street. This man was somebody. Someone who’d done things. He was sure of himself. He was...

Of course. It was MacManus.

Jack MacManus, the man who broke into the big leagues straight from Minnesota, the guy who enlisted as a private in the war and came out a colonel, who went back to college and played on a Big Ten championship football team, who started off in the big leagues by spiking Ty Cobb when Ty tried to run him down as a fresh young busher. Man who’d made a million dollars in oil, lost it in the market, re-made it in radio, bought a minor league club, and finally picked up the Dodgers the year before. The Kid knew about MacManus. Everyone in baseball knew about him. Chap who put Columbus on the map, who started night baseball, who was forever scrapping with someone: Judge Landis, the umpires, or Bill Murphy; yes, his feud with the Giant manager was famous. That was MacManus all right. It couldn’t be anyone else. No wonder he walked that way, held himself like that. He resembled Mr. Haskins, the president of the First National Bank at home, who got the Kid his job in MacKenzie’s drugstore on the corner of South Main. All at once the difference became apparent. This man was the real thing. Mr. Haskins was small town and small time. An idol tumbled as those broad shoulders sauntered down the steps of the Fort Harrison Hotel into the deep Florida sun.

If that was MacManus, and it couldn’t be anyone else, why not settle things immediately? A resolution seized the Kid. Beneath the porch, papers under his arm, his feet wide apart, the great man stood, regarding the sunny street through his dark glasses, and waiting for his car. Without further thought or considering what he was doing, or how he would be received, the Kid darted down the steps.

Mr. MacManus... I’m... I’m Roy Tucker....

He started and turned round. There was half a frown on his face, but the freckles on his nose were reassuring and through the dark glasses his eyes were blue and crinkly round the corners. He looked up quickly. Who... oh, yeah... Roy Tucker... sure, the Kid from Tomkinsville... yeah, mighty glad to see you, fine to have you with us. He held out a hand. It was a lean, strong hand and the grip was encouraging.

Why, sure, I remember the afternoon you pitched against those Cuban All-Stars in Waterbury last summer. Hope you’ll show us something like that down here.

Uhuh. I sure hope. That’s what I wanted to ask, Mr. MacManus. If you... if the team... in case you can’t use me at all, do I come to get my fare paid home?

Another quick look. His eyes narrowed. Your fare paid home? Wait a minute... didn’t he send you money for carfare down here? You should have had a check or a ticket to come down.

Yessir. He sent me a check. It came last month. But we had to use it to put a new roof on the farm. That big storm last winter like to blow it off and I couldn’t leave Grandma. So when it came time to report I just borrowed the money from her.

Off your grandma? You live with your grandma?

Yessir. My father’s dead, and my mother died two years ago. So I sort of wondered if I’d get sent back... or not....

Well, you’ll be paid something while you’re down here.

Yessir, I know, but that goes home to Grandma. Y’see I had a job at MacKenzie’s drugstore, but when I quit ’course my pay there stopped.

So you want to know if you’ll be sent back to your job?

No, sir. Mr. MacKenzie, he said he wasn’t holding jobs open for ballplayers. He gave the job to Jimmy Harrison. I just want so’s I can take care of Grandma.

I getcha. Well, I shouldn’t worry if I were you. We’ll see you land some place. Maybe if we can’t use you there’ll be a spot for you in one of our farms. Just you go in there and pitch the kind of ball you did the day I saw you last summer. And don’t worry about getting home, understand?

Thanks, Mr. MacManus. Thanks lots. That sure helps. I’ll be in there trying every minute. Now the sun really was shining. He felt warm and happy because the worst load of all was taken from his mind. Somehow, some way, they’d see he got back to Grandma. Who knows; maybe he might make good after all? Might be able to buy a blue sports coat with blue striped pants and white shoes. And a big car with the top rolled back to drive down all the way to the training camps in Florida. Who knows? There was almost a grin on the great man’s face. He was smiling at someone.

Hey, Jim, c’mon over here. Meet Roy Tucker, kid from Connecticut I was telling you about yesterday.

A small, thickset man coming out of the hotel yanked his hand from his side pocket. It was a flabby hand, not lean and hard like MacManus’s. Oh, yeah, you’re the Boy Wonder from Connecticut, are you? Gladder see you. Well, you joined a screwy outfit all right. He looked the Kid up and down with a glance that was not unfriendly and not friendly either. Then he half turned his back, interested no more, and addressed MacManus.

Say, Murphy just passed through. He stopped for breakfast. Drove down south, on some kind of scouting trip, for that Tiger second baseman, I guess. Know what he said?

The face of the older man darkened at once. He became another person, full of unconcealed annoyance as he answered quickly:

No, I don’t. I don’t care what he said. Don’t bother to tell me. Let him mind his own business and I’ll try to mind mine.

Yeah, but you gotta hear this one. This is good, this is. He says the Dodgers’ll win the pennant.

This year?

Yep. This year.

How’s he figure that one?

Says there’s gonna be war. That all the other teams will have to go and fight, but that most of the Dodgers will be too old...

The annoyance that had changed into curiosity changed into anger. His face became red.

Kindly tell Murphy to mind his own business and quit popping off about our chances, will you? His voice rose. The Kid thought this a good chance to move out of the firing line, especially as the bus that was to take the squad to the ball park drew up just then with a creaking of brakes. He heard the last few words....

Tell him I’m running my ballclub, and if he doesn’t mind...

3

A GRAY-HAIRED MAN in a dingy shirt and a blue baseball cap well down over his eyes shoved an armful of clothes at the Kid and indicated his locker. Fifty-six. In the back row, there. The lockers were plain wooden stalls about six feet high with a shelf one or two feet from the top. The front of his locker was open and along the edge at the top was pasted:

TUCKER, NO. 56.

There was his uniform with the word DODGERS in blue across the front and the number 56 on the back of the shirt. Already he had discovered there were twelve pitchers trying for half a dozen places, most of them with some experience, several like Kennedy and Foster and Rats Doyle with years in the League behind them. So what chance did a rookie have? But that blue cap and the shirt with the word DODGERS he could take home to prove that once he had trained with a big-league team.

The crowd dressed noisily, shouting and yelling across the little clubhouse. Finally when they were all dressed the door shut with a bang and a small, active little man with thinning yellow hair rasped out a few sentences. The Kid knew him immediately. It was Gus Spencer; Gabby Gus as everyone called him, the new manager, the best fielding shortstop in the League, once of the famous Gas House Gang, terror of opposing baserunners, the pet hate of all umpires and the kind of a fighting ballplayer who would rather scrap than eat. The squad grouped around and listened, some with grave and serious faces, others with a faint smile as if it were an old story. They sat on the benches before the lockers, they knelt on chairs or stood behind, peering over shoulders, while he talked in a voice that commanded the situation, that compelled them to listen whether they wanted to or not, as with his cap now off, now slung nervously on the back of his head, he gesticulated with his hands.

... and only one practice a day; only one practice, so put everything you got into it. Remember I wanna hustling ball team. They’s some fellas can’t do anything but play ball and they’re too gosh-darned lazy to do that. We don’t want ’em down here. Now get out and le’s see some pepper, pepper, y’unnerstand....

Only one practice a day! One practice a day wasn’t so bad, thought the Kid as the door flew open and they swarmed onto the field. Clack-clack, clackety-clack, clack-clack their spikes sounded on the concrete floor of the porch.

One squad on the mats, the other at the wands. At first he didn’t know what was meant until he saw they were divided into two groups and his was to take exercise first on a string of mats laid out in a line on the ground. Gosh, the sun was bright. It blinded him as he looked up. Then he lay on the mat and, at the command of a short man in white trousers and a white undershirt, began the exercises. One-two, one-two, up... down... up... down... one-two, one-two... The leader had an unpleasant way of yanking your legs sharply into position or pushing them back if you didn’t do the exercise properly or weren’t keeping in time, and he kept walking around watching everyone, seeing that each man got into each exercise. These were not ordinary exercises, either. They were movements that brought to life new muscles, that took hold of you in queer places, exercises the like of which the Kid had never done before. The squad lay on their backs, bending their torsos up and down, kicking the right leg sideways, the left leg sideways, turning almost completely over, coming back, fast, faster, as the little man shouted his commands. Above the hot sun of Florida began the process of conditioning. Sweat poured down their faces, grunts and gasps became louder and louder, yet that demon in the undershirt and white pants kept them going steadily. No letup.

One-two, one-two, twist, turn, one-two, one-two...

Half an hour of this torture and then they rose for another thirty minutes of drill with wands. The first exercises they had taken on their backs, but this one they did upright. Holding long wands by each end they slipped them over the back of their necks, and knelt, turned, twisted, and bent to the orders of another leader, a tall, dark-haired man who also knew his business. He too was pitiless, he also roared his commands without giving them a moment to breathe between exercises.

Dip, bend, dip, bend, dip, left, right, get together there, you men in the last row... dip, bend, left, right...

The sun beat upon them. The sun sank into their necks and faces. It was warmer at eleven-thirty than at ten-thirty, and so were they. One fat man collapsed completely and slunk into the clubhouse to the sound of jeers. Others coughed, wheezed, and puffed through the exercises, somehow, anyhow. The Kid wondered whether he could last. He wanted terribly to stop, felt like throwing it all up, like going home, but yet he held on. The torture never seemed to end, always that eternal One-two, one-two, now up, down... until at last the welcome words: All right, you men. Coupla brisk laps and you’ll be ready for practice.

Ready for practice! The Kid was ready to quit.

Following the two laps came a pepper game. Behind home plate and lined up against the backstop of the grandstand the squad spread out in two lines some thirty feet apart. Now the Kid had often taken part in pepper games, so-called, but this was different. This was the real thing and no mistake. One line was armed with bats. The other line threw the ball and the batters smacked it back at them with all their force. You had to be quick to avoid that deluge of balls coming at you from a distance of thirty feet. They came smack at your face, over your head so you had to leap for them, at your toes, the ball taking a wicked bound as you got down to it, and as soon as you had thrown it, there it was back at you. Moreover, balls of the men on either side came your way and often you were catching one ball and dodging another. It was speed, speed, speed. No wonder a player was through in a few years.

In ten minutes the Kid ached all over. Never before had he realized the difference between big-league ball and the bush league variety. If you lived through six weeks of this sort of thing you were a ballplayer.

It was several days before he really got a chance to warm up. His catcher was a brown-eyed, older man with a nice face who smiled agreeably as they started tossing the ball back and forth. The Kid threw a few easily, but the exercises had stiffened him up, for there was a slight twinge in his arm above the elbow. Or was it merely the fact that those muscles had not been used since the previous fall? He pushed the ball and glove automatically under his left armpit and began rubbing his right arm vigorously.

Instantly the catcher walked quickly toward him. Arm sore?

Not sore exactly, seems a little weak....

All right. That’s not such a bad sign the first few days. Throw some from here. He was standing about half the regulation distance of sixty feet, and the Kid tossed him the ball. This was easier. He threw another, and another at the short range. Before long the twinge was gone. His arm felt looser the more he pitched, and inside of ten minutes he was able to put a little steam into it. The catcher motioned him. Now try it from here again. And he went back the regulation distance to the plate sunk into the ground. But be sure and take it easy.

The longer distance didn’t bother him at all, for his arm was warm now and the muscles limbered up. He felt easier the more he pitched, but he realized that the first few weeks he’d have to go slow. Pretty soon the catcher came up, the ball in his mitt. There were men pitching on both sides and the Kid presumed he had done something wrong and was going to be called. But the brown-eyed man smiled.

Show me how you hold that ball.

The Kid showed him. All right. That’s fine if it’s comfortable and you’re used to it. But just try it this way a few times. You’ll soon find you get lots more stuff this way. He held the ball with his two forefingers over the top seam. Try this now, and see how it goes.

Yes, to his surprise he had more stuff. His control was better. The catcher grinned approvingly. See how it helps? You can do things with a ball that way. He walked halfway to the box, then turned. Hope you don’t mind my telling you. My name’s Leonard. I’ve been catching in this League almost twenty years.

The Kid felt embarrassed. His mouth was hot and dry and his voice broke as he answered. Mind? This certainly wasn’t his idea of the big leagues, a veteran catcher being considerate with a young rookie, taking all that trouble with a pitcher who might last a few weeks in training camp. Mind? No... I sh’ld say not. I’m much obliged. It’s better, that grip. The catcher nodded and tossed him the ball. For twenty minutes more they continued until stopped by a fierce whistle from the dugout.

That’s enough out there... you pitchers... c’mon in and get some batting practice.

Try that again tomorrow, said the catcher. See, when you get that twist over the seam you’re able to put more stuff on the ball, understand? Throw it at his knees.

The Kid thanked him and went for his bat. His own beloved bat. He found it and stood behind the screen waiting his turn at the plate. Pitching he liked, but batting he loved. He loved the sensation of outguessing another man in the box, of catching a fast one cleanly on the nose and cracking through a hole in the infield, loved even the hearty swing when he missed a curve. He took his place in the batter’s box. The pitcher wound up, he swung... and missed....

There was a low outside ball and then he got a good, full smack and sent it screaming into deep right center. The next he caught on the nose too, a deep fly, a deep ball to right... no... a couple of fielders were backing up... over the fence. Short, that fence, only 275 feet. But over nevertheless.

The pitcher rubbed up another ball. He was a tall, rangy, powerful fellow, a fresh rookie, anxious to show something. He looked at the plate a few seconds, nodded to the catcher, wound up... and... it came at the Kid’s head. He swung back and away, tripped clumsily over his bat and fell sprawling on the ground. Someone behind the cage said something, and there was laughter. So they thought he was scared? Well, he was. He picked himself up, got his bat from the ground where it had rolled, then, flushed and hot, stood up again at the plate. The ball came high once more, and he caught it cleanly. Back it went, back... back... and over the center field fence, the farthest from the plate.

The little blond-haired man came up to him. He barked, but it was a friendly bark.

Howsa arm?...

Okay.

All right. You better get in now. Take a coupla laps.

The Kid jogged twice round the edge of the field and ended up in a walk near the clubhouse in left. It was well after one o’clock, but even with three hours of solid practice men were still stopping grounders in the infield, chasing flies near the fence, batting or catching the ball, all running at full tilt. Three hours of speed, speed, speed. He wondered how they could stand it, because he himself was almost all in. A few didn’t. Here and there stragglers were coming in loudly demanding a Coke, others were undressing inside as he completed the circuit of the park and came onto the porch of the clubhouse. Standing there was a tall fellow with shoulders like a taxi, negligently leaning against a post and talking to a couple of men in civilian clothes. Someone just behind the Kid mumbled a name. Nugent. Of course, Nugent! He recognized him by the pictures in the papers. Razzle-Dazzle Nugent, the great Brooklyn pitcher who was a hold-out.

Carelessly exchanging jokes with his companions, the great man stood at his ease, a poem in gray. He wore a gray double-breasted sports suit belted in the back, a gray felt hat tilted over one eye, a gray silk sports shirt open at the neck, and gray suede shoes. The Kid’s heart sank as he passed close behind him and, seeing the powerful shoulders, realized the strength of his muscles. Razzle-Dazzle who had won fifteen games with a last place club, and was holding out for a ten-thousand-dollar raise.

The Kid passed inside and started pulling off his steaming clothes. Well, boy, said the gray-haired man, I seen you take a coupla belts at that old apple. Whatcha tryin’ for?

Pitcher, he grunted in reply, so tired it was an effort even to grunt.

Pitcher! The man looked at the sign on top of the locker. Tucker? Oh, you’re that Kid from Tomkinsville, ain’t you? Yeah, well, you got a good easy swing at the plate for a pitcher, all right. Get into that-there shower now.

Under the hot relaxing shower full of sweating men, and then out to dress slowly. Clack-clack, clackety-clack, the rest of the gang came pouring in from the field. Now the room reeked with the smell of sweaty clothes and odor of ointments from the rubbing tables at the side. The old man was writing on the wall as he came out of the shower.

EVERYONE REPORT IN UNIFORM AT 10:30 TOMORROW.

The Kid dressed slowly and came out on the porch to wait for the bus to take them back to the hotel. One practice a day. One practice a day didn’t sound so much when you said it fast at ten-thirty in the morning, but now he couldn’t have walked a hundred yards. It was the continual

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